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One Rapid, Zambezi 2004

Upper Moemba, Zambezi 2004

Day three of our trip down the Zambezi culminates for some at Moemba Falls a 15 m drop into a maelstrom of white water, for those not so inclined the last rapid is Upper Moemba, by comparison an insignificant rapid, it does however present its own problems, ones which last year I was not prepared to face.

It had been a good day, having camped at 21 overnight we continued down to the last of the officially numbered rapids, 25.After this the individual rapids are more commonly known by a name, Open Season presented the first challenge of the day, we spent a long time looking at the line, which although clear enough had me wondering about the consequences of missing the line and dropping into the obviously shallow big ass hole.

I followed Sven through, made the line and came out smiling, Chumemba falls provided the next worry, I walked around last year without a second thought, after a quick inspection we followed Sven down and came out at the bottom unscathed.

Despite these successes the butterflies were very much in evidence and the nerves were a jingiling and a jangaling as we approached Upper Moemba, our last rapid of the day, Svens pep talk on the last flat section before the rapid was as ever short concise and accurate, an easy eddy on the right to make, out and inspect.We paddled past the rafts that had eddied out upstream of our intended get out, Sue following Sven closely, as she crossed the eddy line she lost the tail of her boat, supporting frantically on her right she missed the stroke and capsized with a look of desperation on her face, she drifted slowly out of the back of the eddy, her speed picking up as she headed for the horizon line trying to roll.

Her boat disappeared out of sight upside down and backwards, Sven shot out of the eddy in a blur following her down, a split second decision to follow.I knew the line, I have watched it so many times on last years video, but I knew the river had changed in other key places due to the lower levels, I could not assume that the line I knew would be open, I paddled forward shouting at Driller to move as he too got unsettled on the eddy line.TB piled into the eddy last telling us to grab all we could as we exited our boats and headed downstream to see what we could do, if anything.By the time we reached a spot we could see from they were specs in the distance with Sue in already in the shallows with her blades and Sven pushing her boat into the opposite bank.

Rescue complete, Sven paddled back to us and discussed the line.The line was as last year, I saw the familiar rooster tail on the left, right of this with the boat pointing river left and then deal with whatever came next.

As usual when faced by something like this I was very quiet, few words passed between us as we stood looking at the move.I decided to reduce the beating time by getting into my boat and getting on with it. (time spent looking a rapid is directly proportional to the length of the beating)

I slipped into the boat, ratcheting up the back support as tight as it would go, pulling on the deck I took a couple of deep breaths before putting my nose clip on.I seal launched into the eddy made a couple of last minute adjustments and started the ferry over to river left, turning as I crossed the white foam line marking the opposite eddy, the boat now pointed downstream and I saw the rooster tail and a motorway wide line from this level, I put in a small sweep stroke and pointed the boat left a little, hitting the window perfectly my eyes widened as I dropped, fast, hitting the bottom of the first wave on a brace I quickly moved up the face of the wave, as I reached the top the sky came into view as I started a slow back loop off the top of the wave, I turned slightly in the air and back looped downstream.

I fell to the base of the second wave, landing at about a 45 degree angle head first and the biggest hit I had ever had in a boat, although I am sure any sound of impact was drowned out by the roar of the rapid.What followed was the biggest jumbling around I have ever had in a rapid as I felt as if I had been grabbed by several pairs of hands being pulled by some and pushed by others, as it settled down I hit my role, taking a while to pop upright I threw both arms in the air and held my blades high over my head, goddam,THAT is why I paddle.

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Sven, looping out

Victoris Falls in all their glory

a Porter carrying boats at number 10

The Zim Minus rapids